A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


This is a test. I'm working out how to email my blog posts. ignore my lack
of originality but I refuse to write "testing"!

Monday, April 11, 2011

21 Willow Fever
Monday April 11, 2011:
I’m playing hooky. There has to be some advantages to my precarious freelance status. Taking the occasional afternoon off to wander around a London park on a sunny afternoon is one of them.
My companion and I walk across Ali Pali Park. Very soon we are beyond the range of people and traffic. From time to time, clumps of picnickers emerge from amongst the trees, it is the first sunny day of the Easter holidays which explains the relatively crowded state of the place. We ignore them and walk on.
I’m looking for a tree – a particular tree but I don’t know which.
My companion leads me from one favourite place to another, for she is a habitué of the park. We arrive in a grove of horse chestnuts to find them almost all diseased and dead or dying. Those still alive have great seeping wounds on their sides. It is a sad place. Reluctantly we leave.
We cross water, admire willows in a boggy place and then cross more water. A great three trunked willow sits hard by the sluggish stream. I walk round it and know that I have found the tree I want to work with.
I love climbing trees. Unfortunately my increasing stiffness and ebbing courage for climbing militates against me often getting up into a tree. This one offers a helpful trunk and, with a certain amount of slightly ungainly huffing and puffing, I sit myself down in the fork between two trunks.
*I need to turn grief into remembrance and creativity,” I say to my companion. Then I remember the willow song I wrote in the spring one year after a difficult winter.
“Weep willow weep, then I’ll no longer need to
Grieve willow weep, and I’ll let go of shame.
Weep willow weep, and I’ll let go of fear and
Guilt willow weep willow weep, hear my prayer.
I breathe with the spirit of the tree. I am dancing. The tree is dancing. Androgynous yet stiffly stately, it bows and steps with me and then scoops me upend rocks me in its great rough branches. The world swirls round and i hear it ramblingly creaking and rustling. Remembering other singing trees, I tune in and follow the sounds. From deep within the tree, I catch the strains of my own song. The tree is singing my song!
I’m so happy! I begin to sing along and for a time, we sway and sing together in a rocking contented sort of way. Thoughts bounce in and out of the song. I mull over turning grief into remembrance and into creativity. I think also of the promises I have not kept to myself. It’s been so hard to get out of bed in the morning for months now. If I could get out of bed and start my day purposefully, I could do so much more. I could then keep my promises to myself.
The tree has stopped singing. It grows still. I listen to its quietness. My mind whirls between grief, rememberence,creativity and goals and promises. I think about what stops me getting up in the morning. There is something about not having nice things to look forward to. I wonder how I CAN CHANGE THAT.
There’s a certain amount of rustling going on around the foot of the tree in which i am sitting. My companion who has got cold, is gathering up bits of willow. She proffers the bunch she has collected for me. I wave it about, listening to the swishing. I am sure that in amongst the rustling, I can hear the tree singing.
With a certain amount of trepidation, I extricate myself from the tree and with hand on heart bow low in thanks. We walk across the park. The sun, which has been hiding for the last hour, peaks out from behind a stand of trees as we cross to the bus stop.
Heavy soft drops smack my cheek. It rains but yet the sun shines. I get on the bus and go home. Just as i reach my gate, the heavens open. Hurrying now, I unlock my front door and rush out into the back garden. I skip about it singing the willow song, raising my face to the sky and allowing the heavy raindrops to wash my cheeks. Maybe I’ll try getting out of bed earlier tomorrow, I think to myself as I prance round the garden.

20 the comfort of big trees
Saturday April 2, 2011:
Sun streams through the windows of the North London Line train as it chugs westwards. It’s a longer way to get to Kew but feels entirely fitting somehow.
We walk through the suburban streets. Here, spring is genteelly importuning. My companion, a former homeopath and generally well-educated type, knows what all the flowers and shrubs are. I’m happily impressed.
Clearly, spring has at last spring. I breathe in deeply, calibrating the fragrences, identifying, appreciating and storing them in my memory. All of them gently lift my spirits. I purposefully allow a range of associations of contentment to attach themselves to each smell. I don’t have a care in the world today and I want to remember this day.
Bathed in warm spring sunshine, I sit beside a lakeette listening to ducks laughing.
“Oh and now there’s a lot of ducks bottoms,” informs my companion as she surveys the clump of rears exposed to the noonday sunshine. But we are here to seek the company of trees not ducks. We leave the entertaining waterfowl and their no doubt charming posteriors. .
There’s something uniquely comforting about large trees, I muse to myself as we wander amongst the majestic, hairy, rough trunked redwoods. Deep is their shelter, and grand, their stature. I find it natural to bow low in greeting as I complete my circumnavigation of each.
I’m searching for a particular tree with which to do some cleansing magic. I feel soiled with homophobia and I need to get rid of it so I can purely and open-heartedly grieve for my dead friend. We walk through the redwoods but none speaks to me. Finally, we return to the first tree we found,hardby the pond with thecommical waterfowl.
Gratefully , I enter the green shade of an English yew, its canopy shaggy and all-sheltering. This is the place. It is safe, cool and private. I lie down at the foot of the tree, my belly to the ground and let the world and all my woes, disappear.
I appear to be tangled up with the roots. As i wriggle through them, they brush my body as though to clean it.
In the shadows cast by the low fire, something sits waiting for me. Something else lies on the hearth. Silently, I tell my troubles to the shadows.
I am clean now, inside and out. I stand bare foot on the grass. Something harsh and prickly, heavy, damp and cool is being placed across my shoulders. Stiffly, it swings around me rasping against my naked body. I delicately touch the long narrow leaves of many yew branches woven together to make a living mantle.
“Something to keep the homophobia out” I hear myself say to no one in particular. I take an experimental step and the leafy mantle swishes and rustles as it swings against my body. A sweet piny perfume rises all around me. I breathe in and feel again clean both inside and outside.
Dreaming of shaggy green capes, I am startled awake by two small boys demanding to know what I am doing here and informing me that it’s out of bounds. I attempt a conversation but pretty soon give up. I get up and walk round the tree, ducking under her great jutting branches, silently thanking her for her gift.
”I need cake” I mutter to my companion. We climb out from our cool quiet sanctuary and begin to march purposefully in the direction of the cafe. I can feel that the whole world is glitteringly sunny. The air is alive with passing airplanes. I am definitely back in the here and now, but everything seems lighter and brighter.
We find a table under the trees. I’m very fond of pigeons and am happy to be sitting amongst their gentle cooing. Inevitably though, pigeons like to share the good things they have enjoyed and so of course it is my companion’s bag that they pooh on! In innocent revenge, she remarks that said pooh looks rather like the coffee cream on my cake. Momentarily I am revolted but this does not last long and soon the cake and I are united.
We walk slowly through the glowing gardens as the sun sinks behind the trees. My companion spies a rather tastefully coloured rabbit, all browns and beiges. She waxes enthusiastically about its pretty rabbit bottom as it bounces along the path in front of us. Wondering momentarily about the proclivities of my companion, I follow her out of the gardens and back through the suburban streets to the station.
London glows pinkly as we chug across it on the North London Line, according to my companion who waxes lyrically all the way home. I’m feeling warm and pleasantly tired. I think of the yew leaves mantle and feel safe.